From a Book: Bent Creatures Are Full of Fears

I’ve recently been re-reading C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy and just finished the first book Out of the Silent Planet. In the book, the word used to describe sin to the inhabitants of Malacandra is “bent”, a word aptly describing how we take the good that God has given and bend it to something other than it’s use. Thus we on Earth (Thulcandra in the book) are all bent. One of the creatures was observing with bemusement how the human visitors had acted so incredibly strangely, full of fear and paranoia. The main character Ransom responded to the creatures who couldn’t understand the fears of their human visitors by saying:

Bent creatures are full of fears.

There’s so much I could say here. So much of my life that is filled with fear. The fear of looking the fool. The fear of getting hurt. The fear of being laughed at. The fear of the future. The fear of my failures. The fear of my successes. The fear of being wrong. The fear of being misunderstood. The fear of being unloved. The fear of my own passions. And on and on and on.

There seems to be a proportional link between our “bentedness” and our fears. Or conversely, the greater our faith, the greater our fearlessness in the hands of a good and wise king. My bentedness is far worse than I lie to myself it is. And the same lies that hide it are also the ones I use to rename my fears as logic and wisdom and reason. But as circumstances have shown lately, I am “laden with guilt and full of fear”, but I hesitate to “fly to thee, my Lord.” Then the blacksmith would have to place me on the anvil and begin to hammer the bends out to straighten me into the image he created me for.

But that would hurt. And I’m afraid of pain.

From a Book: More Than I Ever Did Before

Quite a while back, I alluded to how Aslan in the Narnia books has helped me to see Jesus more clearly. I still hope to expand on that more once I finish my current rereading of the series. Until then, I thought I’d share an example of a little boy named Laurence who felt the same and had similar struggles to my own, wondering if affection for Aslan outweighed affection for Jesus. His mother wrote to Lewis about it and here’s his response:

1/Even if he was loving Aslan more than Jesus (I’ll explain in a moment why he can’t really be doing this) he would not be an idol-worshipper. If he was an idol-worshipper he’d be doing it on purpose, whereas he’s now doing it because he can’t help doing it, and trying hard not to do it. But God knows quite well how hard we find it to love Him more than anyone or anything else, and He won’t be angry with us as long as we are trying. And He will help us.
2/But Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.

-from Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3, pages 602-603

From a Book: The Cure Had Begun

It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that “from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.” To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.

-from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 3 of the Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis, Page 110

From a Book: Enchanted as Sin

For [the white witch] knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.

-from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Book 1 of the Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis, Loc 363

From a Book: Think How You’d Feel

“Does he know,” whispered Lucy to Susan, “what Aslan did for him? Does he know what the arrangement with the Witch really was?”

“Hush! No. Of course not,” said Susan.

“Oughtn’t he to be told?” said Lucy.

“Oh, surely not,” said Susan. “It would be too awful for him. Think how you’d feel if you were he.”

-from Prince Caspian (Book 2* of the Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis, Loc 1798

*Yes, Book 2. Not Book 4. Don’t let some crazy publisher somewhere or an offhand comment by Lewis himself lead you down the path of death, destruction, and unending misery. Reading the books in quasi-chronological ruins the way stories unfold if you instead read them in publication order. Here’s a longer defense of why you should read the Narnia books in publication order.

From a Book: Self-Worship Is Everywhere

“You are a liar and a coward and a thief. You think you have no master, and so you are lawless in your self-worship.”

Eli flushed. “I have no love for myself.”

“Self-loathing and self-worship can easily be the same thing. You hate the small sack of fluids and resentments that you are, and you would go to any length, and betray anything and anyone, to preserve it.”

-from Dandelion Fire (Book 2 of the 100 Cupboards Series) by N. D. Wilson, Loc 1941

Afraid to Write

Sometimes I just hate writing. And I love it. But I hate it.

It’s aggravating.

I found myself nodding along with Michael Crichton when he wrote: “If you’re a writer, the assimilation of important experiences almost obliges you to write about them. Writing is how you make the experience your own, how you explore what it means to you, how you come to possess it, and ultimately release it.”

But I just can’t seem to get myself to write most of the time. I use the easy excuse of “I’ve just been really busy and haven’t had time”, but that’s not true. I don’t write because it’s often painful. But it really is the way that I explore the events of my life and possess them and release them (to use Crichton’s terms). And there’s a part of me that feels stuffed with unreleased experiences, because I simply won’t to toil through smashing them out in words.

And maybe it’s because I really hate to just lay it all out there. I’ve been under the vague impression for several years that I’m just a private guy who likes to keep to myself. It’s probably more accurate to say that I’m terrified—and, correspondingly, incredibly insecure. I don’t think I could put a good number on how much of what I do is simply an effort to get affirmation from others. More than half the time? Almost all the time?

I don’t really know, but I know it’s a lot. I remember being shocked in college when in a single semester I was told by at least three people that I was afraid to take risks. I frankly didn’t believe them. I’m not sure a whole lot has changed since then. I’m still scared and I still think I’m not.

So, I’m writing this post (about writing—ha) just to write. Because I need to. I keep putting it off because “I don’t have anything to write about”. Gotta start somewhere…

From a Book: No Other Stream

stream-1351841092KWiA little long and maybe slightly confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the world of Narnia. But it still slays me to read it and so I invite you to as well. I’ve always loved Aslan because of how he made Jesus more real to me (more on this in the near future). He’s gracious and loving and king and mighty and magnificent and scary and perfect–all at the same time. And there’s no other place, no other stream, from which to find living water–water that truly quenches and takes away any more thirst.

“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”

The voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way. “Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion. It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

Lewis, C. S. (2008-10-29). The Silver Chair (The Chronicles of Narnia) (pp. 21-23). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. (Slightly edited)

From a Book: The Unpredictable Universe

370When I read books, thoughts or paragraphs or ideas jump out at me in new ways. And now that I read almost exclusively on my Kindle, I can capture those thoughts and mull on them a bit with the notes and highlighting feature. I thought I’d share some here from time to time.

I’ve always loved Michael Crichton novels, since at least late elementary school. He had a way of talking about science so that it made sense, usually through story and dialogue. These days, I don’t find his writing as great as I once did, but I still enjoy exploring ideas he introduces. Here’s one from Jurassic Park:

Fractals are a kind of geometry, associated with a man named Mandelbrot, who found a remarkable thing with his geometric tools. He found that things looked almost identical at different scales.

For example, a big mountain, seen from far away, has a certain rugged mountain shape. If you get closer, and examine a small peak of the big mountain, it will have the same mountain shape. In fact, you can go all the way down the scale to a tiny speck of rock, seen under a microscope—it will have the same basic fractal shape as the big mountain. It’s a way of looking at things. Mandelbrot found a sameness from the smallest to the largest. And this sameness of scale also occurs for events.

Consider cotton prices: there are good records of cotton prices going back more than a hundred years. When you study fluctuations in cotton prices, you find that the graph of price fluctuations in the course of a day looks basically like the graph for a week, which looks basically like the graph for a year, or for ten years. And that’s how things are. A day is like a whole life. You start out doing one thing, but end up doing something else, plan to run an errand, but never get there.  And at the end of your life , your whole existence has that same haphazard quality, too. Your whole life has the same shape as a single day.

It’s the only way to look at things. At least , the only way that is true to reality. You see, the fractal idea of sameness carries within it an aspect of recursion, a kind of doubling back on itself, which means that events are unpredictable. That they can change suddenly, and without warning. But we have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We do not conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is.

Straight linearity, which we have come to take for granted in everything from physics to fiction, simply does not exist. Linearity is an artificial way of viewing the world. Real life isn’t a series of interconnected events occurring one after another like beads strung on a necklace. Life is actually a series of encounters in which one event may change those that follow in a wholly unpredictable, even devastating way.

That’s a deep truth about the structure of our universe. But, for some reason, we insist on behaving as if it were not true.

Crichton, Michael (2012-05-14). Jurassic Park: A Novel (pp. 189-191). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (lightly edited to make a single quotation–click here to see the full dialogue/quotation)

We so badly want structure. Even those of us (and I certainly include myself) who act like we don’t want structure depend on the earth to keep spinning, our bodies to keep working, life to keep happening. But our hope in order and structure is an illusion apart from the God and Father of Jesus, in whom all things are held together. Yahweh keeps it all together for us. He’s also the master of the unpredictable (to us) which is utterly predictable to him. Trusting in nature, in life to be constant and steady is foolish. But trusting in the Creator and Sustainer of everything is the only right and wise choice. Not that it makes anything safe. Or predictable. But it’s our only anchor in a wave-tossed life.